March 19th, 2010
10:24 AM ET

British Airways to strike after talks fail

British Airways cabin crew members will go ahead with their strikes beginning at midnight Friday after talks between the union and the airline broke down, a union official said Friday.

British Airways Chief Executive Willie Walsh and the joint general secretary of the Unite union, Tony Woodley, met late into the night Thursday and again Friday in an attempt to avert two consecutive weekend strikes.

"This company does not want to negotiate," Woodley said of British Airways. "This company wants ultimately to go to war with my members and the union."

Walsh said he "deeply regrets" the inconvenience the strikes will cause to passengers but said the company will still try to operate as many flights as possible.

"I am disappointed the union has not been able to see the sense of the proposal we tabled today," Walsh said.

Unite has decided to strike for three days beginning at midnight Friday, and for four more days beginning March 27. Unite represents 95 percent of BA's 15,000 cabin crew members, but not all of them plan to strike.

The airline has unveiled an ambitious contingency plan to allow as many passengers as possible to travel. Through leasing aircraft and using
replacement workers, Walsh has said BA hopes around 65 percent of its customers will be able to fly as planned during the strikes.

In a full-page ad in several British newspapers Friday, Walsh said a "significant number" of cabin crews don't support the strike and will continue to work, supported by volunteers from across the airline.

The airline said it has also made agreements with more than 60 other carriers to rebook customers free of charge during the strike period if their British Airways flights are canceled.

The industrial action is over planned changes to the way cabin crews operate, which British Airways says will save the carrier more than 60 million pounds ($90 million) a year. Unite has said the plans call for working hours to be extended and crew staffing levels to be cut, changes that it has said will damage customer service and the BA brand.

BA management submitted a formal offer to the union last week, Unite said, but said the offer failed to address union concerns about crew numbers
and service delivery. That prompted Unite officials to announce the strike dates. BA then removed its offer from the table.

British Airways submitted a new offer Friday but Woodley said it reduced the amount of pay that was in the offer last week.

"It's ridiculous to expect any union to go its membership with a worse offer than was withdrawn last week," Woodley said.

The airline, for its part, also has rejected all union proposals so far, saying they would have saved the airline significantly less money than the airline's own planned changes.

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soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. LouisCipher777

    fire them all. if they don't appreciate the fact that they have good jobs, show them how much worse it can be.

    March 19, 2010 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
  2. miriam

    I don't get it? When will unions see that in this economy they do their members a great disservice by putting their employers out of business. How many industries must go bankrupt before they decide not to be so adversarial as to "go to war" with companies already coping with declining ridership and increasing costs. I guess welfare is a better state of being.

    March 19, 2010 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  3. Jeff

    There was a time and a place when unions were needed, but they have gone from being necessary to a problem. You can sum up a union in 1 word, GREED. As the economy continues to struggle and people go without jobs and money becomes scarce, unions want to fleece their employers and play power struggle. I want to see 1 company stand up and say, enough. If you strike, you are fired. Any one who wants to keep their job had best be at work today. There are plenty of hardworkers out there looking for jobs that would be glad to fill the voids.

    March 19, 2010 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
  4. chiguest

    It is very unfortunate that the unions cannot use any common sense. This is what killed the auto industry in the UK and USA, These workers are some of the highest paid in the industry and all they want is more..... Given the economy they should be greatful they all have a job.

    March 19, 2010 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  5. Rick, Denver, CO, USA

    With so many people out of work I'm surprised the membership is okay with striking. What I find interesting is that neither side has published what their terms are, which is what happened when the Teamsters went on strike against UPS in 1997. Everyone knew what was going on.

    This is a good time for the company to break the union. Southwest Airlines has no union and it is doing well. Unions are outdated for our time. People simply want or think they should earn way more money than they should for doing simple taks. As an example, the US Auto Worker. A simple assembly line job that requires little if no experience and they are paid high wages. The same holds true for UPS drivers. Very high wages to deliver boxes. I used to be a UPS driver. Yes, you bust your backside–but to deliver boxes. The people who SHOULD make the high wages are cops and fireighters who risk their lives.

    My $.02 (inflation adjusted $.75)

    March 19, 2010 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  6. Carl

    Union prisoners are what become of people who claim unions! The truth is apparent, economic terrorists and they have no remorse!

    March 19, 2010 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |